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Any person can comment on this post, but it's geared towards Christians (Catholics, Presbyterians, Baptists, Lutherans, etc.) Anyone can post the first subject of conversation. Just discuss issues about the religion (Heaven, evangelism,etc.) :rolleyes:

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"Worship me (or whatever way you want to spin it) or burn forever" sounds pretty darn conditional to me.

and "He created man" is not something a rational person simply 'chooses' to believe or not - where is the evidence?

No Neanderthal ("Ne-an-der-tarl" ;) ) Homo neanderthalensis, ARE NOT classified under the same species (H.sapiens and H.neanderthalensis are the species) but under the same genus.

Pan troglodytes (Common Chimpanzee) was almost initially classified under the same genus as well (by a creationist no less!)

________________________________________________

OH and octopuppy; not JUST all the koalas, but practically every marsupial chose Australia!

May favourite creationist 'theory' is that they were transported by volcano. Seriously!!

...

1) you have a point - LJ: ever notice how the ones who don't believe in god end up dieing in God's stories? Gods people were slaves in egypt, but they could have slaves later on, and it was FINE?

2) the spellings my fault ;)

3) its not a volcano: they went in a LIFEBOAT!!!

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Unfortunately (and I assume you know this full well) this is nothing but an empty assertion.

Read what I said right after that.

All signs point to there being nothing smaller than a quark, electron or similar.

Atoms are of course made up of subatomic particles.

And both protons and neutrons are comprised on three different quarks (named up, down, top, bottom, strange and charm - for no better reason than to distinguish them from one another.)And not too long ago, there was nothing smaller than an atom. My point is that science is always changing. Yes, I know that it is because science is being studied with better equipment and backed with generations worth of knowledge, but still.

The best hypothetical (but mathematical solid) answer is that 'nothing' (far different than how we habitually think of it with our notoriously unreliable 'common sense') is inherently unstable, and thus the explanation of quantum fluctuation, and thus readily collapses into 'something' (basic energy/matter - which A. Einstein established are sides of the same coin anyway.) And certain models suggest happens over 60% of the time (64.7% I read somewhere.)

This leads to a universe containing absolutely nothing requiring MORE explanation than one full of energy/matter! Cool eh? Weird and counter-intuitive, but cool.

Now that's better than magic any day! :thumbsup:

1) As confusing as that was to read. It did not answer my question, about where did it come from. If that "nothing" is not what we today call nothing, then it had to be "something". So where did that "something" come from?

2) Does that not break the law of conservation of energy? Energy is never created nor destroyed.

Or if.

And "created" is too much of a leading term.

And what would a better choice of words be? Formed?

Thus the proper answer to How did the universe come to be would be "We don't know."

No, that would be irrational; to just pick an answer we like, and stick with it. Sometimes the BEST answer is to simply admit to ourselves that we don't have one.

Yes, nothing irrational ever happens. :thumbsup:

My favourite hypothesis, although I don't 'believe' it in any fashion, is that:

In the beginning (of the story) there was nothing. Had to be something or else it breaks the Law of conservation of energy. Either that or there had to be something, not nothing. In other words "nothing" is the wrong word to use.

Being unstable this nothing collapsed into something (in what framework is unknown as it is so far beyond even the best science now understood, and any situation we are at all familiar with).

Being contained in possibly a planck volume space (it's a quantum thing) at some point this build up of emerging of basic energy (probably pretty much at random frequencies equating to the varieties of fundamental particles [string theory etc.]) reached a critical point, then;

BANG; the rapid expansion event known colloquially as "The Big Bang."

The rest follows from understood science:

Basically after a few millennia (380 or so) the universe cooled etc. enough that the fundamental particles bagan to interact in such a way (collisions) to form the first protons and neutrons.

Then atoms (hydrogen primarily, still ~99% of all matter in the known universe, and a little helium, and even less deuterium etc.)

Which led to them gravitating (literally) to eventually form the first stars. Whose nuclear fusion reactions led to heavier elements.

Leading naturally to second and third generation stars, creating even heavier elements.

Leading to planets (smaller bodies that don't collapse to form stars - hey did you know that in the infra-red spectrum, only, Jupiter IS technically a star?! It's that close.) rich in those elements.

Then we go to abiogenesis, which is understood enough to be seen as quite probable given the right natural conditions, none of which are that extraordinary, it's just chemistry.

And from there evolution (simple 'competition' between variations and for resources) to us. (Complex large multicellular life might be relatively rare, it took us ~3.5 billion years to get going in that direction, but that too was a natural consequence, primarily of early life conversion of CO2 to O2)

All of it; basic physics becoming and coupling with chemistry to biology; no magic or 'supernatural' additions required. In fact the starting condition and requirements is 'Nothing'!

Although this is something we couldn't justifiably conceive of until the past few decades or so.

If I understood what you were saying :wacko: . So in a few centuries, everything you just said could be proven false?

Ok, I only understood part of all that scientific language. It is not even close to my favorite subject (has nothing to do with my religion, just never have cared for it), still better than English though. It may fit with a certain model or idea, but unless someone builds a time machine and goes back to Time Zero, (for lack of a better term) we will never know with 100% certainty.

This is probably going to be my last post in this thread. Not because I am admitting defeat, but we could be here an entire lifetime and not change what we think about this subject.

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This is a simple case of the anthropic principle, which I'll do my best to explain in this context. You would not expect life to occur in the kind of universe that does not have the right physics to support life. Nor would you expect life to occur on a planet that is too hot or cold to support life. The sort of planet on which you would expect to find life would be one just the right size containing all the right chemicals at just the right temperature, in a solar system containing a couple of large outer planets to mop up stray asteroids. Since we are a lifeform, we should not be surprised that the planet we occupy fits that description. There are a vast number of planets in the universe, and the mistake is to think in terms of "what are the chances of life on Earth being possible?", when the planet Earth has been singled out for this attention (out of all the planets there are) because it has life on it.

To put it another way, imagine you are the Queen of England. As far as I know, the Queen of England believes there is a god, and well she might. After all, there are billions of people in the world, many of whom are born into poverty and the vast majority of whom live lives which may be described as somewhat ordinary. But there is only one Queen of England, and she got to be that way simply by an accident of birth. Perhaps she sometimes thinks to herself, "What are the chances of one being born into the royal family, destined to be Queen of England? Of all the things one could have been, how astronomically unlikely is that? The only person in the world one can call 'me' (or 'us', being royal) just happens to be the only person in the world who is the Queen of England. Why, the only plausible explanation for such a hugely unlikely state of affairs is that one is selected by God for this role, which incidentally proves the existence of God." From the perspective of the Queen of England, this may seem pretty convincing. But from your perspective or mine, maybe less so. You may or may not agree with her conclusions, but the line of reasoning (the Queen of England just happens to be the Queen of England therefore God exists) is wrong. She's failing to look at the bigger picture and consider that of the billions of people on Earth, it's not at all surprising that one of them would have been the Queen of England, and whoever it was would be inclined to think such thoughts. It's only the personal perspective (what are the chances of it happening to me) that makes it seem unlikely. Likewise, when we ask what are the chances of life occurring on this planet (or even in this universe) we are applying a personal perspective that is biased by the fact that we would not ask such questions if this had not already occurred.

I don't know if that helps but one just thought up the Queen analogy and we were most amused :D

The Queen analogy is a great learning tool. Well done. But what does it gain us? What is the 'impersonal' perspective and who has ever had it? God?

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The Queen analogy is a great learning tool. Well done. But what does it gain us? What is the 'impersonal' perspective and who has ever had it? God?
It's just an illustration of the anthropic principle. When assessing what exists and what does not, it makes sense to be impersonal. If there is an argument to show that God exists, it should work on a universal level. It's no good the Queen convincing herself if the logic fails when considering the rest of the world. As for who has that perspective, well, we might all seek to have it, even the Queen.

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I think one of the things that makes me thing "are you kidding me" the most is when you hear about groups getting together, and WHIPPING each other on the back, to death sometimes, all in the name of god. in return for their sins. If everyone becomes christians, the death reate is going WAY up. I mean, REALLY? You're saying that god is so wonderful, he wants you to kill yourself? that hes willing to ruin someone's life (The book of Job, re-read posts if you dont unerstand what im saying) just on a dare. if satan's so bad, why was god hanging with him??? If there are bad people at school, i dont hang with them, so why does god hang out with satan? If someone dares me to jump off a brdge 100 feet up, on a dare, i wouldn't do it. Why is god any different? if he's so mad at us for sinning, why isn't there a sap of horrable lightning, and BAM we die?

Another point is that god created everything. including satan. so if we're all sons and daughters of god, so is satan. and yet you're saying that satan has NOTHING to do with god.

Okay then, about punishment. Christians aren't about scourging for wrongs done. God is a forgiving God. it comes across as a misunderstanding to me (then again, you may be talking of a different denomination. sadly, there is dissaray in the Church across the world) of the severity of punishment. if someone commits a crime, a felony, he serves time. the Bible established that principle of punishment. it's the same basis. God has not said anything about Christians killing ourselves. Though we must be willing to take risks for Him and His purposes, He is a God who hates suicide.

as for ruining people's lives, God does do that, but don't get Him wrong. He loves His children (and all of mankind is His children) and is willing to do anything to bring them to Him. sure, the going may get rough, but that time builds us up and brings us into Him. the book of Job was about that man's testing. the testing of His faith in the Lord. the Lord allowed Satan to intervene with Job's prosperity. if you look, at the end of that book, it says that Job's later years were far better than those before the tragedies. in fact, he had twice as much as before, and was much stronger in his faith.

about the good hanging with the bad. Satan was the prince of the whole world before the Death and resurrection of Christ. he could go wherever he wanted. he was the top archangel before his fall. God doesn't "hang out" with Him. God's reaction to Satan's presence in heaven suggests that it was unusual for Satan to show up in a place like that(God's still all powerful, He had nothing to be surprised of).

So I realize that my response to these posts are somewhat dated now (being about four pages back :lol: ), but I think I have something valuable to contribute to the talk of Job. I think I may have mentioned this about the Book of Job in another religious thread, but I can't find the reference, so I'll just reiterate it here.

Context is important when we examine a situation. It tells how best to understand the world in which we find ourselves. The Book of Job was written a certain time period (not sure when, but it is one of the earliest books of the Judeo-Christian anthropology). Christian (and Jewish) scholars are quite happy to point out that the time period is known (so that they can say that it is intact as it was originally written, since some people like to argue about the accuracy of the books of the Bible, especially the New Testament). Fortunately for such scholars, they can say we have reliable sources for dating the book's origin.

However, knowing the time period also means that anthropologists can also know things about the people who lived in that time period. And the fact of the matter is that since they were very early members of the Jewish faith, they actually held very different views from basically anything the Jews or Christians believe today. At the time, there was no concept of the Afterlife. Good works in life warranted good rewards in this life. Only bad people were punished. The problem with this understanding of life is that good people often did have bad things occur to them...What could possibly be the explanation for that? :huh:

The Book of Job provides that answer: God and Satan are having an intellectual debate on whether or not people believe God out of fear and empty statements as Satan conjectures, or through blind faith as God insists. So God allows Satan to test Job by making him absolutely destitute, to see if he will renounce his belief in God. (As a side note, since there was no afterlife, there was no Hell and thus, Satan had a rather different role in these people's minds. He was the original "Devil's Advocate." It was his task to test God's works and try to find a place where God screwed up. He wasn't considered the epitome of evil when the Book of Job was written, he merely provided the objective perspective that sought to find the holes in God's works. Thus, the reason that he and God were palling around so congenially. He wasn't the "Fallen Angel" at that time to the writers of the book.)

The Book of Job was written to provide a "God-given" explanation for why bad things happen to good people (I'm embarrassed, but the word for this kind of story currently escapes me; :blush: the name for a story like that of Hades and Persephone to explain the existence of the four seasons).

i see your logic in how God created Satan, but there's a piece missing. God created man in His own image. the angels weren't. God didn't create Satan as Satan. As i said before, Satan used to be an archangel named Lucifer. he was the worship leader of heaven. when God created the universe and mankind, Lucifer let himself get jealous, and had his fall, and a third of the angels in heaven (which are now known as demons) went with him. God created us as His children, modeled after Him. but the angels weren't. they are his active instruments of worship.

I also thought that I remembered that "free will" was a construct given only to Man, so I'm a little confused about how Lucifer could get jealous of God, since I don't see how jealousy can exist in a being without free will. I admit that I'm not entirely clear on that point, but if the angels lacked choice in their actions, it seems to me that the only explanation would be that God created Lucifer specifically with the intent that he would rebel (so far as I can ascertain from the Christian point-of-view), which seems a pretty raw deal for Luci. :mellow:

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You do realise that this forum is simply atrocious at dealing with response in that format, don't you?

Those coloured additions get completely lost in quoting your post. :dry:

Oh well, I guess I have to cut & paste it as best I can.

1) As confusing as that was to read. It did not answer my question, about where did it come from. If that "nothing" is not what we today call nothing, then it had to be "something". So where did that "something" come from?

Not surprising you didn't get it; it's an overview of high end quantum physics, that makes the greatest minds' brains hurt. :lol:

But no; "Nothing" in quantum physics isn't "something" it is a "zero state", as everything is seen as different frequencies (or some-such) of energy. 'Nothing' is therefore simply the perfect zero state of that energy. This is a highly unstable position (imagine a needle standing in it's point on a bench top as a fitting analogy, or the linked image of the amp meter below - note where Zero or "nothing" lies) which can fall or "collapse" in any direction, including that of becoming what we would recognise as matter or antimatter.

The "quantum fluctuations" is seen as this constant fluctuation of energy. And it interestingly (as is the case for the energy, positive and negative of the known universe) appears to balance out, average out to precisely ZERO energy!

Amp Meter image

2) Does that not break the law of conservation of energy? Energy is never created nor destroyed.

Not exactly. But that law may not be as solid as assumed. Such laws are or best efforts to describe what we observe after all. They can be wrong. Newton's ultimately were proven to be less than perfectly accurate fore example.

The thing is that it all seems to balance out, so over all it appears that the amount of energy (zero?) is actually conserved!

And what would a better choice of words be? Formed?

Perhaps. "Created" strongly implies a creator, a deliberate act. If one's desired conclusion is such a creator being, that smack of begging the question.

At the very least it makes it all too easy to unjustifiably make that leap. Simple expected human error.

It's an example of what we called in one or two of the philosophy papers I took as a "Clobber word" - a word (or phrase) that tends to convince or drive people in a particular direction, without actually adding anything of value.

For instance imagine how much easier it is to go from "created" to "creator" than from "formed" to "creator." Think about it, and ask yourself; do you honestly want to convince anybody in THAT manner? Or would you prefer people believe as you do for GOOD reasons?

Yes, nothing irrational ever happens

Sure it does. But it is hardly something one should strive for, now is it? :lol:

Had to be something or else it breaks the Law of conservation of energy. Either that or there had to be something, not nothing. In other words "nothing" is the wrong word to use.

That law does not hold (as in; it is not about) BEYOND the universe, as it is based on internal observations only.

And as the balance of energy in the universe appears to be zero, no it does not. In fact that only ADDS to its plausibility. (No, I still don't Believe it. ^_^ )

If I understood what you were saying :wacko: .

Then you are better at this than me. :P

So in a few centuries, everything you just said could be proven false?

In a few centuries? In my lifetime I hope! Now that would be awesome!

But at least it has a rational basis, for ALL of it.

The trick is to accept any part of it (and ANY concept) only so afar as the evidence/reason supports it.

Ok, I only understood part of all that scientific language. It is not even close to my favorite subject (has nothing to do with my religion, just never have cared for it), still better than English though.

I HATED English (When I took it way back in the 80s)

Science only really came to interest me much a little later in life. A few years after philosophy did as it happens.

It may fit with a certain model or idea, but unless someone builds a time machine and goes back to Time Zero, (for lack of a better term) we will never know with 100% certainty.

True. But then; Abraham Lincoln may have been nothing but an elaborate fabrication as well.

And actually no; if one where to back there, they still wouldn't be able to lean anything (unless something really weird is achieved) as we are talking about a point before light, before spacetime itself had formed perhaps. What the Hel does that even mean?!

This is probably going to be my last post in this thread. Not because I am admitting defeat, but we could be here an entire lifetime and not change what we think about this subject.

That's a shame.

That's fine by me. The debate, almost any debate, is often an excellent opportunity to hone the critical thinking skills. And hopefully gets a few people (even if that does not include the actual participants) to think carefully about things, about their beliefs and opinions, a little more, whatever the results.

If so; then I count that as a win. :D

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...If so; then I count that as a win. :D

make sure you remember that there's no winning...its simply about what people believe. if people switch from atheism to Christianity or vice versa, than we made them think hard, and its a win for everyone, because that's what this forum's about. If not, well at least we confused them... ;):wacko:

To Framm: I think this is more of a debate, not a thread to try to make people switch religions. Don't feel the need to make it your last post. Even more: if you want to go back to the beggining, you can see that Bran was trying to create a disscusion around Chrisianity. If you want to dicuss it, go ahead. some people *coughatheistscough* may try to knock you down, but if you add on the bottom that you would REALLY like other christians to add their opinion, then you can start up a christian disscusion.

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make sure you remember that there's no winning...its simply about what people believe. if people switch from atheism to Christianity or vice versa, than we made them think hard, and its a win for everyone, because that's what this forum's about. If not, well at least we confused them... ;):wacko:

As a Reasonist; getting people to exercise their reasoning skills a little bit more IS a solid win. Every little bit helps. Atheist or theist, changing from one to the other or not; that's something else. If solid reasoning leads an atheist to becoming a Christain (as that is not what I see happening) or a Christian having their belief strengthed through reasoning - then fine. And I would most welcome their explanation of that process, perhaps I would learn something new. :D

To Framm: I think this is more of a debate, not a thread to try to make people switch religions. Don't feel the need to make it your last post. Even more: if you want to go back to the beggining, you can see that Bran was trying to create a disscusion around Chrisianity. If you want to dicuss it, go ahead. some people *coughatheistscough* may try to knock you down, but if you add on the bottom that you would REALLY like other christians to add their opinion, then you can start up a christian disscusion.

You can just ignore us (or anybody really) if you so wish. And I would like to add that I have zero interest in "knocking anybody down." I just care about reason, and am genuinely interested in why people believe what they do, and helping test and either remove or improve (as appropriate) those reasons through rigorous argument (informal debate) and discussion. It often help me improve my own reasoning and arguing skills as well; which is always desirable. :P

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that's what im trying to say - sorry if it seemed like i was insulting you ADP...i really wasn't

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that's what im trying to say - sorry if it seemed like i was insulting you ADP...i really wasn't

Sorry if it sounded like I took it that way. Heh.

I just felt like expounding on it like that. :D

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As a Reasonist; getting people to exercise their reasoning skills a little bit more IS a solid win. Every little bit helps. Atheist or theist, changing from one to the other or not; that's something else. If solid reasoning leads an atheist to becoming a Christain (as that is not what I see happening) or a Christian having their belief strengthed through reasoning - then fine. And I would most welcome their explanation of that process, perhaps I would learn something new. :D

You can just ignore us (or anybody really) if you so wish. And I would like to add that I have zero interest in "knocking anybody down." I just care about reason, and am genuinely interested in why people believe what they do, and helping test and either remove or improve (as appropriate) those reasons through rigorous argument (informal debate) and discussion. It often help me improve my own reasoning and arguing skills as well; which is always desirable. :P

Ok,I misread it more as an arguement then a debate (I have a habit of misreading things). I can try and answer the questions you have about my beliefs, to the best of my abilities.

I also would like to point out a personal pet peeve of mine. Please be careful, when you are talking about Christainity. Catholics, Southern Baptist, Independent Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Calvinist, Mormons, etc... have different beliefs and some of them are critical differences. I have not seen it here, then again I have not read all of the posts, but I have seen it on other sites. Where they will say Christains did this or did that and it is something that applies to only one or two religions.

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As a Reasonist; getting people to exercise their reasoning skills a little bit more IS a solid win. Every little bit helps. ... And I would like to add that I have zero interest in "knocking anybody down." I just care about reason, and am genuinely interested in why people believe what they do, and helping test and either remove or improve (as appropriate) those reasons through rigorous argument (informal debate) and discussion. It often help me improve my own reasoning and arguing skills as well; which is always desirable. :P

Would you support the statement: "Reason is the best way of acquiring knowledge"? Would you go so far as to say that "Reason is the unique path to knowledge"?

The problem with reason, as demonstrated by things like Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, is that it cannot avoid being rooted in unsupportable assumptions unless you assume a 'god-like' presence of impersonal concepts that are beyond questioning (such as mathematics).

Earlier I asked Octopuppy how his Queen Analogy helped us solve the question of the source of 'impersonal perspective'. He wisely said we all ought to seek it. (It is an ideal toward which we should strive).

From my personal perspective that ideal (as any ideal) is just a substitute for God; and if we look at God from this perspective reason tells us that 'God' is an ideal to which we hope to strive even though it (He) cannot be proven to exist (or in more religious language, cannot be fully comprehended by man).

So to repeat the opening question as rooted in my personal perspective: Do you believe in reason as an ideal impersonal state to which we ought to strive? Or do you go further and attribute any sort of absolute authority to the discipline of rationalism? And in either case, I'd like to understand your underlying assumptions or 'first principles'.

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Seeksit, I'll avoid most of what you said there since I'm interested in AdParker's response and don't want to pre-empt it. However...

Earlier I asked Octopuppy how his Queen Analogy helped us solve the question of the source of 'impersonal perspective'. He wisely said we all ought to seek it. (It is an ideal toward which we should strive).
I was a bit lazy and noncommittal in my response there (even played it safe by changing "ought" to "might"). However, I don't think an impersonal perspective is an impossible ideal, it's just that we have it in our nature for that not to be 100% of our viewpoint.

For example, suppose you met God face to face and had a long and interesting chat with him.

You post your experiences on BrainDen, only to find that all the atheists pooh-pooh your story on the basis that of the following two explanations...

1) a magical man who made the universe exists but chooses not to provide reliable evidence of his existence, yet confuses matters by turning up in private to talk to you

2) the universe, in accordance with all reliable evidence, exists without the aid of said magical man, and either you made up, misremembered or halllucinated the whole thing, or someone played a trick on you

...the second is by far the more likely based on available evidence, so no-one is convinced that God exists and that you had a chat with him.

Now if you were to take an impersonal perspective, you might agree that this is so. You know you didn't make it up, at least not consciously, but you cannot rule out that you are mistaken, and since extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, your belief that you had a particular experience lacks the evidential weight to arrive at such a complex and bizarre conclusion about the nature of things. When taking an impersonal perspective you must agree that this does not demonstrate the existence of God. Nevertheless, you are likely to be swayed by your experiences. This is not a failure to see the impersonal perspective, it's just that you have a personal one too and you might choose to give weight to it.

To go back to the original context, I think it is entirely possible to understand the anthropic principle. Some intuitive feelings may go against it, but we can override them if our understanding is sufficient.

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I don't think an impersonal perspective is an impossible ideal, it's just that we have it in our nature for that not to be 100% of our viewpoint.

I have two problems when I consider how to define the impersonal perspective.

First, where do I draw the boundary around the 'me' that is having a personal perspective? (i.e. how far back in time through my chain of ancestral and cultural and physical backgrounds and how far out in space. There is a point of view that says we are nothing without our relationships and interactions. Where, indeed, do I end and you begin? What is the mechanism of exchange across this putative boundary? And by extension, where does any generic individual end and the impersonal begin?)

And secondly, of what value is the *perfectly* impersonal perspective in solving any issue or problem related to any individual's personal existence? The example you give below (and your Queen analogy) demonstrate, from my personal perspective, that a *generic individual personal perspective*, defined as broadly as possible to include all observable and reproducible personal experience, is an *imperfect* model of the impersonal perspective, toward which we ought to aim our endeavors.

I love imperfect ideals and deities. They are supportable.

For example, suppose you met God face to face and had a long and interesting chat with him.

You post your experiences on BrainDen, only to find that all the atheists pooh-pooh your story on the basis that of the following two explanations...

1) a magical man who made the universe exists but chooses not to provide reliable evidence of his existence, yet confuses matters by turning up in private to talk to you

2) the universe, in accordance with all reliable evidence, exists without the aid of said magical man, and either you made up, misremembered or halllucinated the whole thing, or someone played a trick on you

...the second is by far the more likely based on available evidence, so no-one is convinced that God exists and that you had a chat with him.

I do not understand why one should limit oneself to two explanations. I think it is relatively easy to demonstrate that the set of possible explanations is infinite, or approaches infinity. I could just start rattling off some more explanations, some patently absurd, others much more parsed. Among the latter, I would offer explanations of such a discussion between a man and his God as would fit within the realm of the purely natural. Therein God would be a tangible force in the lives of believers and thereby in the backdrop of culture in which we are immersed, but clearly defined as a limited and imperfect deity.

To go back to the original context, I think it is entirely possible to understand the anthropic principle. Some intuitive feelings may go against it, but we can override them if our understanding is sufficient.

The anthropic principle is well posed. The foil against which it argues is the problem. What is the non-anthropic principle, and how do we define it without resorting to any personal experience? The Queen of England has no monopoly on anthropic perspective. Each of us has a unique quality or circumstance that is equally inexplicable.

Pick up any rock. Consider its origin. Even such a mundane inanimate object has a unique history. It is a 'miracle' emerging out of infinite happenstance. The Rock-centric principle is no less a personal perspective than the anthropic. By extension, there is no physical or imagined object or concept that does not have a unique self-centric perspective. What is left to have an 'impersonal' perspective?

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First, where do I draw the boundary around the 'me' that is having a personal perspective? (i.e. how far back in time through my chain of ancestral and cultural and physical backgrounds and how far out in space. There is a point of view that says we are nothing without our relationships and interactions. Where, indeed, do I end and you begin? What is the mechanism of exchange across this putative boundary? And by extension, where does any generic individual end and the impersonal begin?)
It doesn't matter. In the original context the "I" in question was planet earth. The point is that we take a balanced perspective, one which does not consider any such "I" to be more special.

And secondly, of what value is the *perfectly* impersonal perspective in solving any issue or problem related to any individual's personal existence? The example you give below (and your Queen analogy) demonstrate, from my personal perspective, that a *generic individual personal perspective*, defined as broadly as possible to include all observable and reproducible personal experience, is an *imperfect* model of the impersonal perspective, toward which we ought to aim our endeavors.
Personal perspectives have intrinsic failures. Based on personal perspectives, we might conclude that all universes which might exist must have life in them, since there are no persons to experience any universes that don't. An impersonal perspective doesn't limit what you conceive to that which you might experience.

I do not understand why one should limit oneself to two explanations. I think it is relatively easy to demonstrate that the set of possible explanations is infinite, or approaches infinity.
It was just a hypothetical example. The point is that you may end up with one opinion based on an impersonal perspective and a quite different one based on a personal perspective. You could form an opinion based on either while fully apprehending both.

What is the non-anthropic principle, and how do we define it without resorting to any personal experience?... Pick up any rock. Consider its origin. Even such a mundane inanimate object has a unique history. It is a 'miracle' emerging out of infinite happenstance. The Rock-centric principle is no less a personal perspective than the anthropic. By extension, there is no physical or imagined object or concept that does not have a unique self-centric perspective. What is left to have an 'impersonal' perspective?
"anthropic principle" is a misnomer, but the misnomer has stuck. A rock-centric or earth-centric or me-centric perspective may all be flawed. The problem is a failure to recognise when the set of objects from which you gain data is pre-selected in such a way that the data will be skewed.

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While we're on the subject of the anthropic principle, another interesting example has occurred to me. A few years ago the paediatrician Roy Meadow was called as an expert witness in a case against solicitor Sally Clark whose two sons had both died of apparent cot death. She was found guilty of murder, largely on the basis of Meadow's testimony, and particularly a statement he made that the chances of two genuine cot deaths occurring in the same family was approximately 1 in 73 million. The clear implication to the jury was that these odds represented the chances of the accused being innocent.

Several years later the conviction was overturned based on several factors, but the above testimony has proved to be the most controversial of these. Meadow had seen fit to step outside his field of paediatrics and prepare evidence of a statistical nature, with disastrous results.

Meadow arrived at this figure by taking the frequency of cot deaths in low-risk families (itself a dubious starting point), 1 in 8543, and squaring it, to give 1 in 73 million. This was a gross abuse of statistics. It would be the probability of two children in this group dying by chance, provided the circumstances were completely independent. Since these children had genes in common, the same home and similar circumstances within it, it is ludicrous to suppose that the deaths would have been completely independent events. That does not imply murder, merely some correlation in circumstances.

Even if the figure had been appropriate, there was a further and perhaps worse fallacy in that the jury was allowed to think that this might represent the probability of Sally Clark's innocence. This is where the anthropic principle comes into it. Sally Clark was only under this scrutiny because her two children had died. She had been singled out from the millions of mothers in the country for that exact reason. If the true probability were, say, one in a million, then you could expect such a thing to occur in one family out of every million with no foul play involved. The rarity of the event does not in itself indicate guilt (just as the rarity of life on planets does not indicate God did it), but Meadow had also failed to make this clear to the jury. The failure in this case was to think "what's the probability of this happening to her by chance" when the more appropriate question would be "given that this has happened to her, what is the probability that it was murder?"

Meadow was found guilty of serious professional misconduct and struck off. On appeal, the ruling was overturned the following year and he was reinstated.

Sally Clark never recovered from the ordeal and died a few years later from alcohol poisoning.

I brought that up to illustrate the fact that clear impersonal reasoning can become a very relevant skill, with important real life consequences.

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Would you support the statement: "Reason is the best way of acquiring knowledge"? Would you go so far as to say that "Reason is the unique path to knowledge"?

I would indeed support them both.

Reason is simply the methodological, and critical, examination of any and all available data (including the evidence, direct and indirect, of the senses, and also that of imagination and emotion - everything) to see what seems to work best. Seeking the best explanations of what is observed and so on. As such "reason" is a very broad concept covering a great deal.

There is one qualifier however. actual Knowledge (100% known fact) of the ontological (that is the 'real' as opposed to the purely conceptual) may be an impossible goal. The best we can probably do, without perfect infomation and perfect reasoning ability (not to mention the time required to do it,) is the best approximations that we can muster.

The problem with reason, as demonstrated by things like Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, is that it cannot avoid being rooted in unsupportable assumptions unless you assume a 'god-like' presence of impersonal concepts that are beyond questioning (such as mathematics).

Conceptual proofs are possible, such as mathematics and formal logic, yes. But it definietly gets fuzzier and more difficult when one moves into the real world.

1 apple plus 1 apple DOES equal 2 apples. But is that really an apple before me? is there really only one? :blush:

No, using reason is by no means perfect. Don't fool yourself peolpe, that just because you are using careful reasoning that you therefore have reached the TruthTM. That in itself is an important part of reasoning; recognising your limitations, at least vaguely how solid/tentative any of your conclusions might be. ;)

Of course that in no way means that some other way of reaching conclusions is any better! (An all too common fallacious way of thought.)

It kind of reminds me of that quote about democracy:

"It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." - Sir Winston Churchill.

Reason is kinda the same way for reaching reliable conclusions. It ain't perfect, it's just the best. :lol:

You are right about the reliance on assumptions. But there are means (rational means even) to minimise that as much as possible. Primarily that one can apply ones reasoning skills (and those of others, it need not be a solo endeavour) to those assumptions themselves, in the effort to justify them as far as possible. To be left with the fewest and 'smaller' assumptions as possible. And from there you recognise admit your assumptions - they are always the weak points of any claim/belief/argument. They are where falsifications can be made, and so forth. Many advances of science (a specialise form of reasoning) for instance have been made by challenging assumptions. And likewise many advancements have been stifled because of a rigid retention of them. It is THROUGH reason that such assumptions can be, and are, challenged.

So recognising them, and that they exist, and dealing with them, is itself an example of reasoning. And assuming that one has reached THE (ultimate) answer about anything is a failure in reasoning. ^_^

Earlier I asked Octopuppy how his Queen Analogy helped us solve the question of the source of 'impersonal perspective'. He wisely said we all ought to seek it. (It is an ideal toward which we should strive).

Indeed, personal perspectives can lead to personal biases colouring what one thinks they are experiencing.

Perspectives like inbuilt prejudices, but also just a tendency to look in certain areas from a certain perspective. One interesting example is how those with a world-view which sees time as cyclical, not linear, can see certain lines of reasoning far more readily than linear thinkers (and vice versa.)

It isn't easy, we are all immersed in all kinds of such limiting ways of looking at things, and the human brain is even set up to use short-cuts to interpret data more efficiently, our social upbringing etc. shape some of these. This explains some (but hardly all) differing societal perspectives.

From my personal perspective that ideal (as any ideal) is just a substitute for God; and if we look at God from this perspective reason tells us that 'God' is an ideal to which we hope to strive even though it (He) cannot be proven to exist (or in more religious language, cannot be fully comprehended by man).

Or, and I think more likely) gods represent a 'tangible' substitute for that imagined ideal, and the desire for that ideal to be actual. Plato's world of forms served much the same function, when coupled with the confused assumption that the ideal MUST exist for us to recognise and compare lesser examples.

So to repeat the opening question as rooted in my personal perspective: Do you believe in reason as an ideal impersonal state to which we ought to strive? Or do you go further and attribute any sort of absolute authority to the discipline of rationalism? And in either case, I'd like to understand your underlying assumptions or 'first principles'.

Reason is nothing more or less than the critical assessment of data in order to obtain the most reliable conclusions that one can. Pretty much everyone recognises it's overwhelming value in almost all aspects of their lives - yet often baulk at it where it seems to challenge one's most cherished beliefs. This is a mistake, is irrational (note how 'not-rational' is such a negative term?)

No, Reason is not an "ideal impersonal state to which we ought to strive" - That would be "Perfect reasoning" I guess, but reason itself is not a state at all but a practice, a methodology. One could reach (and hold onto conclusions) based on imagination (I think about ghosts a lot, therefore ghosts are real.) , and/or emotion (I would love it if the FSM was real, therefore it is.) OR one can use reason to assess if ones ideas/beliefs are justifiable (I would like it is the FSM is real, but is it, does the evidence support that idea?!)

One of the prime motives of a lover or reason is actually really honestly caring if what one believes in really true. In contrast believing based on emotion (how many times have I heard "I couldn't imagine [i.e stand the thought of] living in a world where there was no god/afterlife!" - as an argument for that belief?!) strongly implies that one care MORE about holding onto one's cherished beliefs, no matter what, than their truth-value.

Reason is the way to ensure (to the best of one's ability, as best as one can) that ones opinions/beliefs are as likely to match reality, are as close to reality, as possible.

*I prefer to call it Reasonism rather than Rationalism. This is just a quirk of mine based on my history of studying philosophy. Rationalism was (and sticks in my mind that way) as a position that claimed that 'reasoning' - that is sitting down and thinking about stuff is the only means to uncovering truth, as opposed to empiricism which promotes actually looking at the evidence of the senses. Reasonism encompasses both because it is now well recognised that both are important.

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No, Reason is not an "ideal impersonal state to which we ought to strive" - That would be "Perfect reasoning" I guess, but reason itself is not a state at all but a practice, a methodology.
I'd like to pick up from there and note that the kind of practice involved in reason seems to me to be largely negative. We all learn how to draw conclusions based on evidence but many of us do it badly, invoking various fallacies. It seems to me that reason in practice is largely a process of refinement in which we identify fallacy and chop it out.

As such it's hardly appropriate to apply the 'ism' in 'reasonism', except in the sense that it stems from a wish to know the truth rather than be convinced of anything else. That much is a personal choice to look at things in a particular way, but beyond that, reason simply amounts to effective thinking, or good practice. It is the practice of being aware and recognising the relative strengths and weaknesses of various ways of gaining information. As far as that's concerned the 'ism' doesn't seem to apply since I think we all want to do better at whatever we seek to do.

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As such it's hardly appropriate to apply the 'ism' in 'reasonism', except in the sense that it stems from a wish to know the truth rather than be convinced of anything else.

Ah that is just a little meme, that came from a discussion on labelling. Initially it was on what we atheists should label ourselves as, but it drifted, as is so often the case in forum dicussions.

Reasonism was not coined (not by me originally) as a type or label of reason itself, but as a position of the valuing of reason. A Reasonist is therefore a person who truly values reason, perhaps over all (or much) else.

People value all kinds of things, hold them as of prime importance. One may chiefly value their religious tenets, happiness (of oneself and/or loved ones/others), wealth, personal image...Some of us value reason.

I myself value reason even above truth. Such that I would rather dismiss something that happens to be completely true as false or not worth accepting, if it is not supported by sufficient evidence/reasoning, than take the risk of accepting a falsehood. This is one reason why "true" Reasonists (practically everyone values reason to some extent, but that is not what I mean here) tend to hold less beliefs as a whole, and those they do hold to generally lesser strengths, with less conviction, than others.

*And no; it's not very linguistically sound. As "Reasonism" reads more like "belief in reason" than "the love/valuing of Reason." ;)

But "Philologos" (the love [Greek; filo] of reason [Greek: logos]) doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. :lol:

Edited by ADParker

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I love the tone of this discussion and the very well considered answers. I find myself in agreement with ADParker and Octopuppy in their recent posts.

I myself value reason even above truth. Such that I would rather dismiss something that happens to be completely true as false or not worth accepting, if it is not supported by sufficient evidence/reasoning, than take the risk of accepting a falsehood. This is one reason why "true" Reasonists (practically everyone values reason to some extent, but that is not what I mean here) tend to hold less beliefs as a whole, and those they do hold to generally lesser strengths, with less conviction, than others.

This distills the picture for me. I would prefer to call myself a Reasonist, as you define it, but with one important reservation: that inherent lack of conviction. Would you agree that force of conviction has an evolutionary/memetic advantage?

If there are ways to tap into the font of evangelical conviction, which religions use to their advantage, without compromising the principles of reasonism, then it would seem the best thing to do.

Thought exercise: Two companies simultaneously bottle water from the same spring. One labels their product 'hydrogen hydroxide' with a plain white label and does no advertising. The other company labels their product 'God's Elixir of Life' and spends great amounts of money to do research that provides solid incontrovertible evidence for their claim. (e.g. deprived of The Elixir laboratory animals soon grow lethargic and eventually die.) This latter company also advertises heavily and hires a charismatic traveling spokesperson, whose name is Jesus, to promote the product.

Now I believe a Reasonist ought to accept all this evidence, and not consider extraneous associations when considering which product to buy. One product has provided evidence for its efficacy, the other hasn't. Lacking knowledge or resources to do their own independent research, and not knowing that the two products are actually identical, which would the Reasonist choose? If the spokesperson then goes on to be crucified, and his followers claim that he was raised from the dead and promoted to the distant reclusive home office where God makes the Elixir, should these claims have any bearing on the Reasonist's decision regarding which product to choose?

Now, replace the bottled water with a set of ethical behavioral norms.

Edited by seeksit

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This distills the picture for me. I would prefer to call myself a Reasonist, as you define it, but with one important reservation: that inherent lack of conviction. Would you agree that force of conviction has an evolutionary/memetic advantage?

Sure. But one should always take care this this kind of train of thought. So that one does not fall into committing the naturalistic fallacy. Just because it has had an evolutionary advantages does not necessarily mean that it is a good thing, and/or that there is not an even better way.

Rationally a certain "lack of conviction" is important. It is referred to as "keeping an open mind." It is always possible that one is mistaken. This does not count out very strong (but less than absolute) conviction however. In fact to the extent that one can say that in a generalised sense at least one KNOWS some certain things. e.g. for all intents and purposes I know that I am sitting at my computer right now - but even on that I have just enough doubt (vivid dream, delusion?) to not close my mind entirely to any possible counter-arguments/evidence. ;)

A certain level of a "lack of conviction" is the key to learning, to progress, the key to the methodology of learning as many likely to be true things and divesting oneself of an many unlikely to be true things as possible.

If there are ways to tap into the font of evangelical conviction, which religions use to their advantage, without compromising the principles of reasonism, then it would seem the best thing to do.

That might have some tactical value. But I oppose it on principle. In fact it brings up an important point, which has come up from time to time:

I argue less on theism vs. Atheism grounds, than I do on absolute conviction vs. open mindedness.

THAT is one of the main problems, and thus foundations of argument for me. That certain theists for example claim (loudly) that they KNOW that their particular god is real, so dismally argue their case, chock full of logical fallacies and simply silly errors, yet display a complete refusal to even consider budging, admitting that they may be mistaken.

This means that, as far as I am concerned, giving up the rational (and scientific) foundation of 'doubt' would be a serious undermining mistake.

Thought exercise: Two companies simultaneously bottle water from the same spring. One labels their product 'hydrogen hydroxide' with a plain white label and does no advertising. The other company labels their product 'God's Elixir of Life' and spends great amounts of money to do research that provides solid incontrovertible evidence for their claim. (e.g. deprived of The Elixir laboratory animals soon grow lethargic and eventually die.) This latter company also advertises heavily and hires a charismatic traveling spokesperson, whose name is Jesus, to promote the product.

Now I believe a Reasonist ought to accept all this evidence, and not consider extraneous associations when considering which product to buy. One product has provided evidence for its efficacy, the other hasn't. Lacking knowledge or resources to do their own independent research, and not knowing that the two products are actually identical, which would the Reasonist choose?

If the evidence is indeed "solid incontrovertible evidence" for it's efficacy. Then of course the rational thing is to accept it as such, to the extent that the evidence supports it.

Your "e.g." sounds more like this elixir contains an addictive drug however. :lol:

You dose lab animals with high doses of heroin, and then deprive them of it, most would die too!

If the spokesperson then goes on to be crucified, and his followers claim that he was raised from the dead and promoted to the distant reclusive home office where God makes the Elixir, should these claims have any bearing on the Reasonist's decision regarding which product to choose?

Not in the least, no.

Now, replace the bottled water with a set of ethical behavioral norms.

Okay.

Such a shame how far it is from the reality, isn't it? ;)

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Since my answers are a bit different from AdParkers I'll add them too...

This distills the picture for me. I would prefer to call myself a Reasonist, as you define it, but with one important reservation: that inherent lack of conviction. Would you agree that force of conviction has an evolutionary/memetic advantage?
To a limited extent it does, in humans at least. However, any advantage it may have held in our evolutionary past is not necessarily relevant to the future. Also note that while an "evolutionary advantage" could imply that genes for strong convictions acted to their own advantage, which often (but not always) means that they were of benefit to people, a "memetic advantage" is less tied in with benefit to people. Strongly held convictions may proliferate as part of a memeplex such as a religion, but an ability to proliferate in no way implies usefulness. In other words, the "advantage" of the meme might only be an advantage to itself.

If there are ways to tap into the font of evangelical conviction, which religions use to their advantage, without compromising the principles of reasonism, then it would seem the best thing to do.
The fundamental problem I see with that is that evangelical conviction is intrinsically incompatible with reason.

Firstly for the reason AdParker pointed out, that reason depends on doubt. If you are not prepared to doubt your point of view, you will not reconsider it in the face of opposing evidence. If you are wrong, you would never know it. So although you may be right, it would only be so by dumb luck and the chances aren't good.

Secondly because it seems what you are driving at is that it may be better to use emotional appeals, crowd-pleasing stunts or similar ballyhoo to promote reason. The problem is that these methods work equally well for all points of view, true or false, and thus lack the discernment between truth and falsehood that is intrinsic to reason. You cannot truly promote reason by the use of unreasoning methods. It reminds me of a straw man argument sometimes offered against atheists that Hitler and Stalin were atheists and thus atheism is bad, or something along those lines. Leaving aside the matter of whether Hitler actually was an atheist, it is noteworthy that both these characters had dogmatic ideologies which were promoted by means of emotional appeals, fear, indoctrination of children, and (particularly Hitler) the use of rallies to encourage followers to strengthen their beliefs by gathering together in groups and feeding off each other's fanaticism. In other words, they borrowed a lot of the methodology that religions routinely use. Naturally, what was promoted was anything but reason, and what you are suggesting puts me in mind of this. When our methods of spreading a message intrinsically bypass our means to distinguish between right and wrong, the message itself may be wrong, and if not, is very likely to go wrong.

Two companies simultaneously bottle water from the same spring. One labels their product 'hydrogen hydroxide' with a plain white label and does no advertising. The other company labels their product 'God's Elixir of Life' and spends great amounts of money to do research that provides solid incontrovertible evidence for their claim. (e.g. deprived of The Elixir laboratory animals soon grow lethargic and eventually die.) This latter company also advertises heavily and hires a charismatic traveling spokesperson, whose name is Jesus, to promote the product.

Now I believe a Reasonist ought to accept all this evidence, and not consider extraneous associations when considering which product to buy. One product has provided evidence for its efficacy, the other hasn't. Lacking knowledge or resources to do their own independent research, and not knowing that the two products are actually identical, which would the Reasonist choose?

I'll take this to mean that both companies are selling bottled water, but nobody could know this. You probably wouldn't buy 'hydrogen hydroxide' if you didn't know what it was or what it did. As for the other product, assuming it actually is bottled water, the claims made about it are deceptive, which a reasonable person might detect in various ways. For example, if it is a new product, the question of how our reasonable person might have survived to the present day without it arises. Also, the evidence that you die without it does not imply that it can be correctly described as 'God's Elixir of Life'. Still, if you had always used it, had good evidence that you would die without it, and no way of knowing that it could be sourced elsewhere, it would be reasonable to choose this product.

If the spokesperson then goes on to be crucified, and his followers claim that he was raised from the dead and promoted to the distant reclusive home office where God makes the Elixir, should these claims have any bearing on the Reasonist's decision regarding which product to choose?
This makes no difference. The associations with God were unsubstantiated to begin with.

Now, replace the bottled water with a set of ethical behavioral norms.
The main thing 'God's Elixir of Life' had going for it was a lack of other choices, or information to enable one to see that you didn't have to buy it, and you might say the same about Christianity in history. But I find it hard to see what point you're trying to make with the example. I'm trying to relate it back with the statement about tapping into evangelical conviction, and I'm afraid I can't see what you are driving at. :(

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Rationally a certain "lack of conviction" is important. It is referred to as "keeping an open mind." It is always possible that one is mistaken.

How strongly should one hold the conviction that people should be open minded? Personally I hold that conviction as one of my strongest. Yet in this series of discussions, I am exploring the contingency that I could be wrong. I appreciate the help you provide in keeping me from straying into fallacies such as the naturalistic fallacy (one of the hardest for me to surrender).

If there's one thing I hold more dear than open-mindedness it is the value of balance (the outcome of practical wisdom and the goal of critical thinking). I'd like to continue to explore the landscape that balances critical thinking with blind acceptance, or, if you will, Reasonism vs. 'revealed religion'.

Being a finite data processing facility, the human mind at any moment in time accepts blindly things that it has evaluated previously through reason, even though the assumptions underlying the acceptance may no longer be valid.

By extension, we accept blindly the findings of people we 'trust' as experts in areas of reason/science that we are not capable of understanding. This acceptance is critical to humanity's social structure. We switch on our computers and head off through cyberspace to Brain Den without understanding every process going on within the network of 'little black boxes' that provide us with this connection.

Functionally, the Bible and the 'Complete guide to computers and the internet' are identical in the following sense: they codify, in frozen (dogmatic) form, a set of rules that we choose to accept blindly because we don't have the time or resources to revisit the experiences (experiments) of our predecessors. Furthermore, in the practical experience of users of these two manuals, they are identical in that not everything in them works right, but in general they do us some good and increase our quality of life. We can't figure out why Brain Den's forum 'Other' category front page suddenly shows up with no topics, and we can't figure out why God didn't cure our uncle's cancer. Both are imperfect and occasionally glitchy. But both serve their adherents.

The two dogmas differ in that reasonists readily accept changes to the 'complete guide' but many religionists refuse to accept ammendments to their religious canon. The two dogmas often also differ on the origin of the basic tenets or foundation (first principles) on which they base their canon.

So this leads me to the question: What would be the functional difference between a religion that eagerly accepts change to their belief system as new information becomes available (including the underlying first principle assumptions), and the practice of the reasonist?

Science has demonstrated that children who have imaginary friends tend to develop socially more effectively. The imaginary friend provides them with 'practice'. Dreams serve the same function in people of all ages. Humans respond to anthropomorphic symbolism better than to dry logic. That is part of the point behind my analogy with the 'hydrogen hydroxide' and 'God's Elixir of Life'. Both are identical things, one is packaged for more effective delivery.

Reasonism isn't the goal of life any more than religion ought to be. Instead, both are only ultimately useful if they are means toward improving the individual's day-to-day life. Bottom line: Reason and blind acceptance operate in a give-and-take balance in the real world. ImHO it would be a mistake to favor or belittle either one of these yin-yang partners.

The main thing 'God's Elixir of Life' had going for it was a lack of other choices, or information to enable one to see that you didn't have to buy it, and you might say the same about Christianity in history. But I find it hard to see what point you're trying to make with the example. I'm trying to relate it back with the statement about tapping into evangelical conviction, and I'm afraid I can't see what you are driving at. :(

If we use the power of evangelical conviction to package the best known practices of pure naturalism (as evaluated using reason), the message becomes more powerful, and can compete for the attention of more people.

I'm claiming this is what religion has done all along (take practical wisdom and package it with a good compelling story). Who would deny the wisdom contained in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount? Reason, without the use of the fallacy of guilt by association, must accept this ancestral wisdom, not discard it because of the irrelevant hype. A guy reincarnated 2000 years ago is a story. Newton's Apple is a story. The underlying practical knowledge, when accepted on blind faith and applied, affects people's lives regardless of the particulars of the story.

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I may still not have succeeded in getting my point across satisfactorily. It takes some thought and time to formulate a good post. :duh:

My anecdote about the 'hydrogen hydroxide' (dry, purely scientific description of the product) and 'God's Elixir of Life' (same product creatively labeled to attract users) is meant to highlight the difference between how reason would be used to neutrally identify an item (or a set of behavioral norms) and how someone with an evangelical conviction about the same item might attempt to actively promote it.

The impersonal reasonist's perspective is: "describe the proven attributes of the item and let reasoning people make their choice." The evangelical approach is: "people don't live by reason alone - it is balanced by blind acceptance (trust). So to get them to choose the Elixir you have to 'sell, sell, sell'."

Now I have to admit that bottled water was a poor example. It would have been better to have the two companies marketing some newly discovered item. I'll try another example:

The potato came to Europe around 1570. But its leaves are poisonous. The potato was no more than a botanical curiosity in Europe for two centuries, until the 1780's, when it revolutionized life and triggered a population boom.

The scientific authorities of the time (e.g. the Royal Society, London, 1662) recommended cultivating the potato as a solution to the frequent famines during those centuries; but the superstitious population refused to accept these findings; and some churches condemned the potato because it wasn't mentioned in the bible.

The course of history may have been very different if some enterprising scientist had developed a real passion for this vegetable and had begun an evangelical promotion campaign. He might have become a larger-than-life folk hero if his followers were spared a famine that devastated neighboring villages, for example. His personna may have been elevated far beyond reason.

That hero worship is irrelevant to the real tangible value of his evangelism; but the story of how he saved his followers from certain starvation would become the promotional tool that spread the word far and wide across the continent.

Did that help?

Edited by seeksit

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